What Happens When You Quit Social Media? I Found Out

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Quitting social media is easy. The hard part is handling what comes after this “extreme” step. I should know. I deleted all my social media accounts mid 2013.

There was no momentous event that led me to give up the likes of Twitter and Facebook. I felt like I needed a clean break from social media and I ensured that I got it.

I often purge things from my life in dramatic sprees. Social media just happened to be one of those things. Sure, I could have scaled down my social media usage or at least stuck with a single social network. But I don’t like half measures, so I ended up deleting every social account with my name on it.

Let’s show you how that turned out. If you’re planning to give up social media yourself, take notes.

Unexpected Reactions

When I quit I knew I might have to give the occasional explanation about why I wasn’t part of any social network. But I wasn’t prepared for the extremes of reactions that came my way from friends and strangers alike.

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First there was genuine concern from some people that something had gone wrong in my digital life. Some others thought I was just being contrary and tried to either cajole or coerce me into returning. A few were even scornful and responded with you-will-be-back-in-a-week smirks.

I continue to get similar reactions even now, although they have decreased in frequency and they don’t bother me like they used to do before. The people closest to me have somewhat accepted that I won’t be returning to social media anytime soon. That I’m more willing to meet them in person gets ignored. That I refuse to “stop being anti-social” online continues to be the topic of never-ending debate.

Feeling Directionless Online

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You might use the web for several things other than Facebooking, but once you give up Facebook, you’ll wonder what those other things are.

Yes, every time you open your browser, you might be at a loss to decide what to do. You won’t know where to go next, because your go-to web hangout — Facebook — is out. But don’t worry. This won’t last long. You’ll soon discover distractions of a different kind and even find more time to learn a new hobby. I latched on to interesting newsletters and feeds as a replacement for social media.

Being out of the Loop

You know those moments when everybody knows what’s going on and you’re the only clueless person around? Expect many more of them. Not staying up to date on Facebook statuses and Twitter goings-on equals missing out on all the juicy references in conversations and not getting jokes because “you had to be there”. You’ll also have to field (several) requests to join other, often obscure social networks.

Want to see you best friend’s vacation photos? You’ll have to wait for her to mail them to you. It’s not like you can log in to Facebook yourself to see them, can you? Meanwhile everyone you know has seen them already.

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Sometimes I did wish I could create a private social network, but then I realized that it already exists in the form of group messaging apps like Hangouts and WhatsApp. Now I’m content to have one-to-one conversations or group video calls on Hangouts.

If you’re quitting social media, you’ll also need to find alternative, sometimes old-school, ways to keep in touch with friends and family — ways that are convenient for you and them.

Internet Gatekeepers

Only when you have deleted your Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ accounts will you grasp the extent to which the web depends on these three giants. I have had to forgo many interesting services for the sole reason that I didn’t have a Facebook account, a Twitter account, or a Google+ profile to sign in with. I wonder what happened to good old email signups.

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Derailed Job Searches

Job hunts are the worst hit by the lack of a social media presence. Awesome social media skills seems like a permanent fixture in job descriptions these days.

Staying up-to-date on LinkedIn, participating in Twitter chats, joining discussions in Facebook groups — these definitely open up more opportunities to get ahead in your career. That’s not a bad thing at all. What’s disturbing is that social media skills are sometimes considered more important than the technical skills that are actually required to fulfill a role.

When it Comes to Social Media, Never Say Never

I do have one social media account. It’s work related and happens to be my MakeUseOf Google+ profile. I also use Twitter (without an account) to search for tweets to include in my articles.

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Last year I also created a Facebook account again because I was participating in an online challenge and it required participants to join a dedicated Facebook group. While the idea of supporting each other to ship a product in ten days appealed to me, the constant social interaction required as part of the contest rules felt overwhelming to me.

Once I decided to opt out of the challenge and continue with the project at my own pace, I felt relieved. And as I did not have any further use for the Facebook account, I deleted it (again!).

You’ll need to stay prepared to jump back into social media because some aspect of your work might demand it. See if you can find a suitable workaround instead. If not, think of social media as a means to an end and do what you can to make social networks help you at work. At the same time, don’t be afraid to cut down on your social media commitments if they’re detracting from your actual work.

Social Un-networking

My exit from the social media scene has sometimes frustrated (but mostly delighted) me.

Do I miss not being part of a social network? Not anymore. Maybe it’s because I know that I can go back to social media any time I feel like it. My introverted personality might also have something to do with it.

What’s the best thing about being off social media? The automatic shift in focus from what everyone else is doing to what you want to do. The fading Impostor syndrome, too!

Am I missing out on work opportunities by giving up social media? You bet I am, but I’m also drawing more of those that are perfect for me.

Will I ever become actively involved in any social network? Sure, why not? As long as it’s something I’m comfortable with or it’s a necessary aspect of a job/business I love, I have no problem using social media a second time. But I won’t make the decision lightly, because I don’t want to get caught up in a digital whirlwind again.

Get Social (or Not)

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Many people thrive on and enjoy the kind of dynamic, fast-paced interaction that social media provides. But for many others, social media is just another distraction that feels like a necessary evil in these times.

As I see it, there are no definitive right or wrong approaches to social media. There are only those that work or don’t work for you. Of course, it’s still worth considering if we’re better off without social media.

Have you ever given up social media either temporarily or for good? What prompted you to do so? What came next? Tell us all about it in the comments!

Image Credits:Woman throws paper trash by Nick Starichenko via Shutterstock

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